Archive for February, 2012


West Virginia is a great place to take a photo. There’s a reason it’s called ‘Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia.’ I decided to use a map to show some of the places in West Virginia I’ve been to and found to be really great spots for photography. Dolly Sods is probably one of my favorite places in West Virginia. In some areas, all of the trees have branches facing one direction because of the constant wind. In the early summer, there are plenty of different types of berries to pick and eat (but make sure you are absolutely sure before you eat something in the wild!).

Two reasons West Virginia is known to be ‘wild and wonderful’ are the amount of natural beauty in the state and the amount of wildlife that calls West Virginia home. There are plenty of fields and wide, rolling hills. There are plenty of forests and parks, as well as rivers, streams, and waterfalls, all of which are teeming with life. From mighty oak trees and smallest wildflower orchids to black bears and white tailed deer, West Virginia is full of wonderful things to see and experience.

Here’s my map of some of the best places in West Virginia:

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Shooting In Manual

While it does take some practice, shooting in the manual settings of your camera will be really beneficial for you. Finding the right settings in manual can be tricky at first, but don’t be disheartened if your photos turn out poorly at first. This is one of those cases where hard work, effort, and plenty of experimentation will really pay off and allow you to take very high quality pictures.

So what is it about manual settings that makes it so premium for photo taking? I think first it’s best to explain what the auto setting does. In auto, the camera will take care of adjusting the settings of your camera. It will determine a shutter speed as well as determine what the aperture is. For the most part, you can take some really great photos in this setting; the problem is, it can limit you to where you can take your pictures and how well they turn out.

Manual setting lets you adjust both of these to meet your lighting needs. If there is very little low light, you can manually slow down your shutter speed or widen your aperture. Adjusting these two settings to your needs can allow you take photos better than on the auto setting. Sometimes you may need a certain shutter speed and with manual you can adjust only the aperture, and vice-versa. In the auto function, you don’t have this freedom.

Like I said before, getting the right settings is a matter of playing with your camera’s settings and seeing what works. There will be plenty of failures and mistakes at first, but before you know it you will be able to put your camera right into those settings without a second thought.

Tilt Shift Photography

In honor of the light-heartedness of Mardi Gras, I thought I’d discuss and share something that is a lot of fun and looks really neat. There is a type of editing that can be done that will make your pictures look like photos of miniature toy models. It’s called tilt shift photography, and it really is a lot of fun.

The most important part of tilt shift photography is to make sure you get the right picture. I have found that the best angle is to be high up, shooting down. You don’t really want an aerial view, but somewhere close to that could work. I have also found that photos of buildings (or anything with really bright colors) works really well too. The bright colors in a photo will look even brighter (and more toy-like) when you increase the saturation, which makes the subject of your photo look more like a miniature model.

Here are a few photos that I tried out using tilt shift photography. Some of it seemed to work pretty well, and others didn’t come out quite right. It’s best to just play around and see what looks good to you.

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It’s also important to have fun with editing and to play around to see what works for you. Here’s a “How-to Guide” for editing your own photos for tilt-shift photography.

Some Winter Fun

I really do enjoy the winter months. I love to snowboard, and the snow is fun to play with. You have an epic snowball battle, or even make some really neat snowmen or ice sculptures. I also love the way the snow makes the world look. To me, snow in its stark whiteness, just makes the world look clean and pure. Visually, I love the way snow looks on a pine tree. All that white with a hint of green reminds me of spring. The green of the pine needles are just waiting to break free of winter’s icy grip, much the way the first blades of grass sometimes pop up through the melting snow.

 

West Virginia Photo Op

West Virginia, in my opinion, is one of the best places to be a photographer. There is so much natural beauty here that there is always a place for a photo opportunity. There are plenty of mountains, forests, and rivers so finding wildlife is never a problem. In the spring and summer, there are literally hundreds of different species of wildflowers that bloom. On top of all that there are plenty of places to hike throughout the year to see these kinds of things.

Dolly Sods is definitely one of my favorite places to hike. A hiking trip there can last a day or even a few days. There are plenty of areas to sketch wildlife or to photograph it. In June there are plenty of wild blackberries to eat, but make sure you don’t eat anything unless you know for sure what it is!

West Virginia also has all four seasons, making it ideal for seasonal photography. In the fall, entire mountainsides can turns to various shades of reds, yellows, and oranges. In the winter, it usually snows creating a beautiful, icy landscape. The spring and summer provide a ton of different wildflowers and there are plenty of neat birds that do their spring/summer nesting in WV.

So if you don’t live in West Virginia, definitely take the chance to go see it someday. If you do live in West Virginia, than get out there and enjoy the beauty of ‘The Mountain State.’

Montani semper liberi

Playing with focus

Trying out focuses while taking photographs can be a lot of fun. There are lots of different styles of photography that deal with altering the focus. One such style is Bokeh photography.

Sorry this post is so short today! It’s snowing a lot outside and focusing on anything else is tough for me today! Expect some new snow photos soon! Until then, enjoy these berries I shot yesterday.

Camera Angles

It’s amazing how a change of the camera angle can radically transform a photograph. A bird’s eye view of a forest will be quite different from eye level. I think the key to finding the right angle for a shot is to take lots of pictures from different angles. The old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ is definitely true when it comes to photography. Through practice, a photographer can find what angles work and what ones don’t.

The angle of a photo can be really telling for what type of story is being told. Unique angles tend to be more artsy and less formal. Unique angles may show the subject off to the side of the photo or perhaps looking straight down/up at the subject. This types of angles can also portray a first person view remarkably well, since people don’t always see things at the ‘perfect’ angle anyway.

The more traditional photo tends to be more formal. These types of angles tend to be more straight on and don’t really use camera tilt. While these typs of angles can be used in a more artistic manner, they are generally used to tell stories that can be found in a newspaper or other formal settings; but even now stories found in the news are starting to take more artistc photos. I find this development to be pretty amazing, since the traditional view of printed news seems to be somewhat stuffy and boring. I think it’s great that it’s trying to move in a more upbeat direction.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; “This is (more or less) a nature photography blog! Get back to the nature stuff!” So how can unique angles be used to photograph nature? For one thing, a unique angle can give an animal’s eye view at scenery. Here’s a pretty neat video of a college campus through an animal’s perspective. Also, because nature in itself is unique, I think the best way to portray nature is in a unique way. Looking straight down at a flower or looking straight up at a sycamore can be unique and look really cool too.

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So much for a snow storm

Unfortunately, the snow didn’t last. Deep down, I want around 6 ft of snow. I got a pretty nice shot of the snow coming down, and with it, my hopes were soaring. I tried to catch the flakes in motion, and I had some difficulty. For one thing, getting good lighting along with a shutter speed quick enough to catch the snowflakes in motion wasn’t quite possible for me. With the shutter speed moving at a such a quick pace, the camera wasn’t picking up enough light to create an image.

The cool thing about a shutter speed that doesn’t quite move fast is it can create an image that seems to stretch. This can be especially seen with lights, and I’ve seen some pretty cool photos of cars moving on a road with prolonged exposure. The longer exposure made the snowflakes in my photo look like sheets, and I kind of like the way it turned out.

My backyard when it's snowing.

Sadly, this is my backyard the morning after it snowed. The cold snow was no match for the warm sun and grass that desperately wanted to survive.

My backyard the morning after it snowed.

Snow!

So, it finally snowed where a live. It was only a little bit, but it did snow none the less. I think the snow really makes the world look amazing. The way it clings to branches give trees an icy appearance, making even the sturdiest elm tree look fragile. Snow can also make things look alien. A once familiar field can appear as a snowy, unfamiliar tundra when it finally snows.

Snow also brings out some pretty interesting photos of animals. Photos of animals in the snow can range from cutesy to visually stunning. Wolves in particular take great photos in the snow. If can catch birds in the snow, it can be particular stunning. The cardinal looks especially beautiful with his stark, red color against a mostly white background.

So expect some snow pictures to come, especially if we get a lot of snow!

Views from the Top

While photos of mountains and hills look nice, photos from the top of those mountains and hills look even better. While not quite an aerial view, this style of photography is something I really like. Not everyone can make it outside to climb hills and mountains, but I’d bet everyone would enjoy the view. I think photos like these can be used as great motivators to get people outside. “Look at these neat things I saw. You should see it for yourself too!”

As people, we like to see things with our own eyes. Sure, seeing pictures is fun, but deep down I think when people see a picture they enjoy they think to themselves, “I want to experience that for myself.” I know I’ve talked about what I think photography should be, but I think using photography as motivational tool is great. Anything that gets people to better themselves, in any way, I find to be tremendously valuable.

Morgantown from the top of Dorsey's Knob.

So get out there, and enjoy your own view from the top!